For weeks, Juan Plascencia has kept a routine: He wakes up and checks the Supreme Court’s website to see if a decision has been made on whether he will continue to receive protection from deportation.
In those moments, Plascencia, a 29-year-old history teacher in Las Vegas, was anxious and nervous, but more than anything he just wanted to know.
On Thursday, the decision finally came, and Plascencia scrolled through the entire opinion before realizing the Supreme Court had found that the Trump administration violated federal law when it rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that shields immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. A flurry of emotions followed, including shock and amazement.
“As a history teacher, I teach about days like this. DACA is here to stay and our humanity is validated,” Plascencia told BuzzFeed News. “We are humans. We don’t owe people a sob story to validate our humanity.”
There were 649,070 active DACA recipients as of Dec. 31, 2019, the most recent data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. At the time, there were 25,980 people with pending DACA renewals.
Angel Fajardo, 25, was caught off guard when the Supreme Court issued its opinion. She had been bracing for a ruling against DACA. However, the limbo she and other DACA recipients have been in isn’t quite over. Thursday’s ruling only found that the manner in which Trump tried to rescind DACA was incorrect, meaning he can still end the program if he follows the proper steps in the future.
“It’s a relief that we know,” Fajardo told BuzzFeed News. “But I’m still not in an absolute happy state because I know that no matter what, if the administration wants to continue with their agenda, they’re going to move ahead no matter what and we need to be prepared for that.”
Fajardo, who is director of the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective, has two young children and is worried about her family’s future in the US. Still, she said this time around isn’t as bad as 2017 when she was pregnant with her son and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s plans to end DACA.
“I was having nightmares thinking about my baby. I was scared about the possibility of being removed,” Fajardo said. “Having been through that first moment, I was able to recollect myself a bit more this time.”
Vanessa Meraz, 23, of Washington, DC, said that while the anxiety of a potential DACA decision was constant over the past few months, the first-generation college graduate had a feeling today would be the day. She hit refresh on the Supreme Court’s website at 10 a.m. and moments later released all the feelings she had been bottling up.
“The rush of relief I felt in that moment is indescribable and all I could do was cry to my parents. We didn’t expect this decision at all,” she said.
Marez immigrated to the US from Mexico with her parents when she was 3 years old.
“The decision today was an enormous win for nearly 700,000 DACA recipients like me and our families,” Marez said. “But there is still much work to do to ensure permanent protections for all undocumented folks in this country.
Cinthia Padilla, a DACA recipient who is preparing to take the bar exam this summer in Louisiana, also woke up on Thursday and kept refreshing the Supreme Court’s site to see if there had been a ruling on the future of a program that has protected thousands like her and given them work permits.
The 29-year-old who was brought to the US from Mexico when she was 1, graduated from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in May, and said she felt revived, thankful, and optimistic when she read the ruling.
“It’s a beautiful moment,” Padilla told BuzzFeed News. “We beat Trump and I get to study for the bar in peace without checking every week to see whether a decision had been made.”
Padilla said she doesn’t know what Trump’s next plans are for DACA, but hopes that undocumented people like her will own the moment and tell their representatives how important the program is.
“Trump is just one person in his party,” Padilla said. “Hopefully this decision has signaled to him, yet again, that he will not be able to wield executive power without it being challenged.”
Ivon Cardoza, a 24-year-old dental assistant in Dallas, was a junior in high school when she first heard about DACA. In the next few weeks, she expects to open her own boutique and graduate with a business degree in the fall.
“My DACA was set to expire this year, and without this, I would have lost it all by September,” Cardoza said. “I teared up hearing the news today.”